As cases of coronavirus continue to spread across the U.S., the former vice president of health insurance company Cigna penned a Twitter thread warning the general public about how these corporations will be approaching the crisis. This, he believes, will mainly include waiving smaller fees to make themselves look like heroes while refusing to cover the actual treatment for COVID-19 complications as much as they possibly can.
WORD TO THE WISE>> During this coronavirus crisis, keep an eye on every move of my old industry: health insurers. Behind the PR spin, they will be doing everything they can to deny care & maintain profits, while making it look like they’re heroes. Here’s what to look for: (1/10)— Wendell Potter (@wendellpotter) March 13, 2020
Wendell Potter warns that although CEOs of health insurance companies like Cigna may be promising to cover copays for treatments related to the coronavirus, he doesn’t believe them for one second.
“The president said that insurers ‘have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments,'” he writes. “Don’t count on that. Insurers’ biggest trade group (‘AHIP’) said soon after Trump’s speech that what insurers would waive would be cost-sharing for testing. Not treatment.”
You can be sure Trump’s comment sent shockwaves through the industry. For many, treatment will be way more expensive than testing. If insurers let their enrollees (YOU) off the hook for out-of-pocket expenses related to treatment, their shareholders would be apoplectic. (3/10)— Wendell Potter (@wendellpotter) March 13, 2020
Potter explains that health insurance companies can’t waive all copays and other expenses for this pandemic as their shareholders would rapidly abandon them if they did so. The industry has to keep its denial rate between 15 and 20 percent to prevent this from happening.
“As part of Obamacare, insurers have to spend at least 80-85% of premiums on health care. So most try to keep the ratio right at those levels. If it creeps up significantly, shareholders run for the exits.”
As part of Obamacare, insurers have to spend at least 80-85% of premiums on health care. So most try to keep the ratio right at those levels. If it creeps up significantly, shareholders run for the exits. Why? When insurers pay more in claims, that’s less $ for profits. (7/10)— Wendell Potter (@wendellpotter) March 13, 2020
He further points out that regardless of any promises thrown out to the public, Cigna’s official policy only states that they will cover testing costs but is silent on copayments and deductibles. UnitedHealthcare’s, meanwhile, offers a lot of vague platitudes but not extra coverage for COVID-19 treatment—only tests.
“Any care or treatment for COVID-19 will be covered in accordance with your health benefits plan,” says UnitedHealthcare’s webpage on the coronavirus. “Your deductibles, copays and coinsurance will apply.”
Here’s another: UnitedHealthcare says “your health is important to [them]” and their top “priority.” But if you actually get this coronavirus, good luck with out of pocket costs (5/10)https://t.co/g8epmCQYFC— Wendell Potter (@wendellpotter) March 13, 2020
Potter reminds us that for-profit health insurance companies are just that — for profit. They only really care about how much money they can make and keep, and their only fears right now are around people noticing how far they will go to protect those profits and how they are responsible for so many people having to beg online just to live.
As a former insurance exec, let me tell you: The strategy of moving Americans into high deductible plans has paid off beautifully for shareholders & top execs. But it’s forcing millions of Americans to forego care, turn to GoFundMe or bankruptcy court due to awful bills. (9/10)— Wendell Potter (@wendellpotter) March 13, 2020
One silver lining to this pandemic is that it might finally expose the greed that makes up the foundation of the health insurance industry to enough people so that the U.S. public finally demands something that actually works for them.
This pandemic will finally reveal how devastating insurers’ greed will be to so many of us. Tragically, some Americans will likely die because policymakers turned the keys of our healthcare system over to profit-driven insurance corporations.
That has to finally end.
— Wendell Potter (@wendellpotter) March 13, 2020
Potter’s thread has spread rapidly since he posted it on Friday, with just the first tweet reaching nearly 30,000 shares. He ended the thread by calling for Medicare for All.